Friday 17 May 2024

Gardens II : A Second Choice

In the first of this little series, we considered a simple situation. A man, a woman, a garden, doing the right thing. And we ask ourselves a question - what could possibly go wrong?  And the answer is: everything.

Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane - (c) 2024 Sally Coleman

And back in April, that was a simple situation and if, like us, you're trying to get a wildflower garden to thrive, it was a simpler garden. Primroses and bulbs. With the only complication the slugs eating the flowers. The garden was just awakening - like Eden itself did - and everything was short grass and simplicity.

Now in May, things have changed. Primroses have gone over. But you don't want to cut them just yet as they need to seed. Buttercups spring up and Fox-and-Cubs awaits its chance. But is Fox-and-Cubs an invasive plant? Or pretty in its own right? Forget-me-nots are randomly spread around the place. And round the edge, and springing up just where you might not want it, is keck, or as some know it, cow-parsley. And the great dilemma is, what do you do with keck? It's pretty. It's so good for hoverflies and other nectar-lovers. And yet - it's a right pain, spreading everywhere. I suppose you can just accept its grace for what it is, and thank the good Lord that it's not its big sister, Giant Hogweed. The garden is much more complex. At some point we must mow it to ensure next year's primroses. But when? So many nuances.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:36-46, NIV)

The world was simple - one man, one woman, in a garden. The choice was simple. 

But now - the world has grown old and complicated. A man in a garden. The ones who should be with him in his prayers and decisions are snoring under an olive tree. And the pressures come in from all angles. The man is at the centre of religious disputes. Is he the Messiah? The Son of God? Is he a blasphemer, a heretic, demon-possessed? And then there's the political ones, overlapping. Is he a rival to the authorities? Is he putting himself up against Caesar?  Is a rebellion coming?

The liar in the garden was a snake. Here in the garden, Jesus knows that the liars will be those who bring false accusations.

And what is he going to do? Adam and Eve were told they would be gods. Is Jesus going to use godly powers? Call down a legion of angels to storm the Praetorian? Destroy the Temple and raise it in three days? Create through violence an empire of love instead of the Roman's empire of hatred?

Or go with the ancient prophecy, made in this world's mythical spring-time:  "He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel"? The prophecy that his mother half-fulfilled 33 years ago when she said "yes" to God's call to her.

Adam and Eve had to make one, simple decision. This man - one complex one. But let us arise - here comes the betrayer.

Jesus Calls Mary - (c) 2024 Sally Coleman

It is over.

The decision was made. A battle took place. In a garden dedicated to the dead, in the quiet of the dawn, there is no whisper of the trouble that has been taking place in Hell this weekend. Just the birds, maybe the rustle of a fleeing guard.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:11-18, NIV)

It's just like it was in the beginning. A man, and a woman, in the garden, at the beginning of the world. On the First Day, after God has rested.

And Mary thinks that he's the gardener. Which is logical - in a garden. And in a sense, she's right. He is the gardener. He was the one through whom this world was planned and made. It's only through him that this garden - let alone this world, this universe - exist. He sets the rules of physics that bring the sun's rays from heaven, and defines the biology that means the plants grow.

In the beginning, God said "let there be light". And now God's Word says just one thing - "Mary". And she sees. And she believes. And the decision made, back in our race's mythical morning, is superseded. The one who planted the Tree of Life has, through a Tree of Death, changed everything. And the world starts to be remade.

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